Enough is enough! That seemed to be the message the Browns delivered in convincing fashion Sunday afternoon.
In a city where the football team had been king for the better part of the past half-century, the Browns have lately found themselves playing third fiddle to the city's other two pro sports franchises: the Cleveland Indians, who won their division and are headed to the American League playoffs, and the Eastern Conference Champion Cleveland Cavaliers, whose star, LeBron James, is one of the most adored players in all of professional sports.
Fans around town speak glowingly of C.C. Sabathia, Travis Hafner, Fausto Carmona and Victor Martinez, all of whom have helped make the Indians a serious contender to win this year's World Series. And Cleveland fans seem to drool every time King James's name is mentioned.
Browns players, meanwhile, have tasted the wrath of fans and media for not only their own awful start this year in the regular-season opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers, but also for the team's trading of starting quarterback Charlie Frye after just one game and for past performances by Browns teams since the franchise returned in 1999.
But it now appears that these Browns players, many of whom tasted nothing but success in college, have grown tired of playing in the shadows of the Indians and Cavaliers. They are tired of hearing the chuckles that accompany any mention of the organization that has been in constant turmoil for eight-plus years.
Most importantly, they appear tired of losing!
The desire to prove themselves certainly was evident Sunday afternoon when the Browns played probably their best overall game in the Romeo Crennel era while thoroughly whipping North Division rival Baltimore, 27-13. The game wasn't even as close as the final score might indicate.
The offense, led by Derek Anderson, was outstanding against a rock-solid Raven defense. Two first quarter Anderson touchdown passes got the Browns off on the right foot. He finished the day going a workmanlike 10-for-18 for 204 yards, two touchdowns and just one interception.
In many ways, Anderson was more impressive against the Ravens than he was while throwing five touchdowns in the 51-45 victory over the Bengals two weeks ago.
First of all, the Ravens' defense, unlike that of the Bengals, came ready to play. They weren't taking the Browns lightly after seeing Anderson and Company score at will against the Bengals two weeks ago.
And the Raven defenders were fired up for their first-ever game against former teammate Jamal Lewis. Ravens captain Ray Lewis and his defensive mates definitely had their games faces on and came ready to play. And they pretty much accomplished one of their goals, which was to limit Lewis, who had just 64 yards on 23 carries, good for just a 2.8 yard per carry average. But in doing so they opened up other areas of the game which Anderson and the Browns exploited.
After yet another splendid opening kickoff return by Joshua Cribbs, Anderson easily took the Browns 55 yards on nine plays, capped by a 2-yard touchdown pass to Joe Jurevicius. The drive included a beautiful 25-yard pass to Kellen Winslow off a well-executed pick play.
Jurevicius's touchdown, caught in front of Ray Lewis, marked the first time in 15 games that the Ravens had given up a touchdown on the first drive by an opponent and pretty much set the tone for the day.
On the first play after a Leigh Bodden interception gave the Browns the ball on their own 22 with 5:51 to play in the first quarter, Anderson faked a handoff to Lewis, then found a wide-open Braylon Edwards streaking down the left sideline for a 78-yard touchdown pass.
Less than 10 minutes into the game, the Browns enjoyed a 14-0 lead and never looked back thanks to the fact the defense showed up for the first time this season.
While they certainly didn't dominate like the Steel Curtain or the Purple People Gang in their respective heydays, coordinator Todd Grantham's defense made one big stop after another to keep the Ravens out of the end zone until 7:19 remained in the fourth quarter.
To be fair, Ravens quarterback Steve McNair had limited mobility due to a painful groin injury, but the defense definitely was improved in every area compared to the first three weeks.
The Browns also were fortunate in that Matt Stover, the former Brown, had one of his rare off days, missing a couple of very makeable field goals.
The surprising Browns are now 2-2 overall, including 2-1 in division play and have proven they can beat a couple of the better teams in the AFC, but many challenges remain before they can truly be considered among the elite.
They have to prove they can win on the road and they have to prove they can get up emotionally on a consistent basis no matter how tough the opponent.
It's relatively easy to play inspired ball against a division opponent and against one of the NFL's elite teams. Not so easy is play inspired ball on the road against a team that has equal or lesser talent.
Next Sunday's opponent, New England, will give the Browns a chance to show they can play well on the road and on par with a legitimate Super Bowl contender.
A victory in that game could propel the Browns onto a much better-than-expected season.